Why Do Cats Like Catnip?

Really, why do cats like catnip so much?  Is it like pot for kitties?  Is it addictive?  Can it hurt them?  Here’s the whole story.

That’s a bit of a relief.  Non-addictive, and not harmful, so far as we can tell.  To expand on the information in the video, catnip acts in a way similar to cat pheromones.  As we understand it, catnip produces a sort of olfactory overload, which affects the cat’s central nervous system.  Wikipedia describes the plant’s effect as follows:

Catnip contains the feline attractant nepetalactone. Nepeta cataria… are known for their behavioral effects on the cat family, not only on domestic cats but also other species of cats. Several tests showed that leopards, cougars, servals, and lynxes often reacted strongly to catnip in a manner similar to domestic cats…

With domestic cats, N. cataria is used as a recreational substance for pet cats’ enjoyment… Common behaviors cats display when they sense the bruised leaves or stems of catnip are rubbing on the plant, rolling on the ground, pawing at it, licking it, and chewing it. Consuming much of the plant is followed by drooling, sleepiness, anxiety, leaping about and purring. Some growl, meow, scratch or bite at the hand holding it. The main response period after exposure is generally between five and fifteen minutes, after which olfactory fatigue usually sets in…

Not all cats are affected by catnip; roughly 33% are not affected by the plant.

Why do cats like catnip?Interesting stuff!  It’s good to know that catnip may be just as safe for cats as a laser pointer or ball of yarn.

And catnip isn’t just for cats.  The herb also has a calming effect on humans, similar to chamomile, when made into a tea.  A member of the mint family, it is fairly easy to grow.  It’s worth planting both mint and catnip in your garden – the plants are attractive as well as useful!

What’s your experience with cats and catnip?  Do you have any funny catnip stories or pictures?  We invite you to share them below, in the comments.


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